The Division of Theatre in SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts opens its main stage season with a new adaptation of a French classic. Assistant Professor of Theatre James Crawford directs Molière’s The Miser from a version translated and adapted by James Magruder. The production runs Sept. 28-Oct. 2 in the Greer Garson Theatre, Owen Arts Center.
The title character is the wealthy moneylender Harpagon, whose obsessive frugality leads him even to search his servants before they leave his house to ensure they haven’t taken anything from him. His son, Cléante, and daughter, Elise, want nothing more than to marry their respective lovers, but Harpagon’s penny-pinching and greed stand in their way.
The play was first performed in 1668, with Molière himself in the title role. It served not only as a comedy of manners but as a pointed send-up of theatrical conventions of the age and even of the French idea of comedy.
Molière biographer Hobart Chatfield-Taylor wrote in 1906 that the playwright’s genius “lay, above all else in telling the truth about mankind…. As a poet, he has been surpassed, but never as a writer of concise, vigorous, and truthful prose dialogue … a dialogue so expressive of human thoughts and human emotions that his characters are still as lifelike as on the day they were drawn.”
The Washington Post described Magruder’s new translation as “a saucy serving … for those who like their French fare spicy and au courant.”
(Left, M.F.A. candidate Teddy Spencer as Harpagon and senior theatre major Katherine Bourne as Jacqueline in the 2011 Meadows Theatre production of The Miser by Molière. Photo by Linda Blase.)